Why Biking 7,000 Miles to Patagonia is Essential for Creative Living
If you need conversation material at parties, I suggest planning a seven thousand mile bike ride. It gives you the ability to talk to anybody. It’s a story that spreads on its own. People will just walk right up to you and ask, "Is it true? Holy shit."
I just turned 30, and I’ve decided to use this year to radically shape the rest of my life. I am about to leave my job and ride a bicycle for seventeen months, from Oregon to Patagonia. The need to do it (and it really felt like a need) hit me about three years ago when I read a quote from famed naturalist John Muir.
“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
Now, I hardly make any money, and I don’t feel like this "trivial world of men" has nothing to teach me. But there was something about drawing close to 30 that felt like I was losing something. The newness of life and career and cities and friends began to find their comfortable patterns, and once you see the pattern, time speeds up. That’s why we hear old people always warning us of how fast life passes. It really doesn’t pass by any faster than those long childhood summers, but we just lose fascination, or I should say we lose wonder. We are no longer astonished by the way the world works.
A famous cure for that is travel.
Many of my friends do not find it surprising that I would do this trip, though my conviction to do it surprised me. I never thought I’d follow in my parents’ footsteps.
I am not original. I am a sequel. In the 1970s, my father finished college and his unrest with America—thanks to the Vietnam War—inspired him to walk across it. He felt such distaste for his country, and at the same time, a discomfort with his own ignorance of it. He realized he didn’t really know his home. He thought, "What better way to discover a place than to walk through it?" He left from New York state and walked to New Orleans over two years, where he met my mother, seduced her out of seminary, and they walked together to the coast of Oregon. It was a five-year journey in total, one they wrote about for the cover story of National Geographic magazine in 1979.